Top 10 Tips For a Strict Gluten-Free Lifestyle
- By Destiny Stone
- Published 07/21/2010
I diagnosed myself for gluten intolerance after a lifetime of bizarre, seemingly unrelated afflictions. If my doctors had their way, I would have already undergone neck surgery, still be on 3 different inhalers for asthma, be vomiting daily and having chronic panic attacks. However, since eliminating gluten from my diet in May 2009, I no longer suffer from any of those things. Even with the proof in the pudding (or gluten) my doctors now want me to ingest gluten to test for celiac-no can do.
It has taken me over a year to finally start feeling remotely “normal” and it has been a very long and often lonely road. However, there are so many wonderful, caring people out there and thanks to celiac.com, I feel fortunate to be blessed with insights from many of those caring people. Over the course of a year I have found out more about gluten sensitivities than most doctors know! I have learned the hard way for many things, but I have also picked up some wonderful tips and tricks for dealing with severe gluten intolerance. It would be selfish of me not to share these tips with others, so here they are and I hope they help you as much as they have helped me.
- Paper Towels – It is my opinion that paper towels are the most undervalued accessory you can have in your house as a person suffering from food sensitivities. While it may not be the most Eco-friendly product, it can be a real lifesaver! I use paper towels for just about everything. In my daily use, I use paper towels to dry off silverware, cups and plates after I rinse them. Even if the dishes I am rinsing are already clean, I rinse them again. I do not live in a gluten-free household, so I choose not to take any chances with gluten crumbs contaminating my dishes. I use paper towels to dry my hands after I wash them 5 million times a day, because using a cloth towel in a gluten household can take a bad turn if the towel was used by a gluten loving person toweling their hands after handling gluten. If I am at a friends house and I am not sure how clean their house is, I use paper towels to open doors, microwaves and even to cover a cutting board before preparing my food. If I have to touch something with gluten for any reason, I pull off a trusty paper towel and use that as a buffer between me and the gluten. Paper towels are my new best friend and I buy them in bulk.
- Beans and Rice – Rinsing my dry beans, rice, and other such dry goods, before preparing them reduces my chances of getting contaminated by gluten. Even though rice and beans are naturally gluten-free, I was getting sick from them repeatedly prior to realizing that beans and rice can be harvested and/or manufactured alongside wheat, rye and/or barley. Rinsing and soaking your beans (even the canned beans) will minimize the possibility of getting glutened from your gluten-free food.
- Stamps/Envelopes – Stamps and envelopes are another source of gluten-contamination. The glue used in stamps and envelopes often contains gluten ingredients. I learned this the hard way after licking some envelopes and getting very sick. Now I use the no-lick stamps and the no lick envelopes; they are a bit more expensive, but to me it's very worth it.
- Produce Stickers – Produce stickers, like stamps and envelopes are also said to have gluten containing ingredients in them. To avoid the chance of gluten contamination, I try to find produce without the stickers on them. If the sticker is unavoidable and the produce has a peel, I remove the sticker, and peel and wash my produce. If the produce does not have a peel, I remove the sticker and wash very well with my produce scrub brush.
- Ice-Trays – Ice trays are one of those things that most people never consider when thinking about gluten. However, I have gone to houses where it is common practice to keep food in or near the ice tray, especially ice trays within the automatic refrigerator ice dispensers. I have seen people put everything from ice-cream and bread, to alcohol in their ice tray's to get it really cold. Ice trays are very exposed and it is just too easy for crumbs to fall into them unknowingly so, I usually avoid ice in my drinks when I go out or go to a friends.
- Door Handles – Everyone knows that door handles spread germs. But does anyone ever think about door handles spreading gluten? I keep my handles as clean as possible at home, but what about public places? Consider this: a person eats a gluten pizza, does not wash their hands and then opens the door and leaves the restaurant. If I open the door after that person, I run the risk of getting contaminated by gluten and becoming very sick. Short of wearing gloves everywhere I go, (which isn't a bad idea) I do take precautions and I use my sleeve and/or immediately wash my hands after spending time in any public place, or at a friends. The same holds true for other public things including light switches, public phones, and even video rentals. Think of all the pizza loving hands covered in gluten that have held movie rentals before you rent them. Considering most people watch movies while eating, I wash my hands after handling any movie rental, and especially before I touch anything else. Time permitting, I try to wipe down my video rentals with disinfectant as soon as I get them.
- Silverware Tray - Believe it or not, silverware trays are a major source of possible gluten contamination, especially if you are not living in a gluten-free household. Crumbs fall from the counter into the silverware tray and until you clean it, there it will remain. I wash my silverware tray frequently and I rinse and dry my silverware with a paper-towel before each use-just to be safe.
- Glass Containers – Plastic containers are a source of contamination because they often maintain a residue from the food you store in them. Therefore if you store gluten containing food in a plastic container, then there is a likelihood that your gluten-free food will get contaminated the next time you store gluten-free food in it. Additionally, things like soaking your plastic containers in dishwater with gluten contaminated dishes can also contaminate your plastic containers. Scratches in the plastic can also create a new haven for gluten residue. That is why I don't use plastic to store my food any longer. All the plastic containers in my house are dedicated to the gluten eating people and I bought all new glass storage containers for my food. They have plastic lids, but I don't cook with them on and my food rarely touches the lids anyway.
- Stay Connected – It is easy to get depressed about being on a restricted diet. Especially if you are (like me) surrounded by friends and family that don't take your gluten intolerance seriously, or simply don't understand. That's why it is so important to stay connected with other celiacs and gluten sensitive individuals. Join a support group, take a weekly walk with a celiac friend, talk to someone who understands you, all of the above. It might take time to find a support network that works for you, but it is worth the energy you spend. You will find that most people in your boat are more than happy to help you. There is nothing worse than feeling alone, so don't do it. Like the old phone commercials used to say, 'reach out and touch somebody'.
- When in Doubt, Do Without - Many of you have probably heard this saying already, but it is very true. Anytime I feel myself second guess the food I am about to consume, I immediately think to myself, ' when in doubt, do without,' and I do without. Prior to realizing my gluten-sensitivity, if I was preparing a meal and a piece of food dropped on the counter I would wash it and put it back with the rest of the food. Now, I don't think twice, I throw it away. I don't care if I just cleaned my counters, I do not take any chances. If my rice toast accidentally touches something else in my kitchen, I tear off the piece that was contaminated. I don't wait to find out the hard way if my food has been contaminated with gluten, I assume it has been and act accordingly. This may sound wasteful, and it does go against everything I believe in, but my health and well-being are more important to me than wasting a piece of bread or throwing out something because it may have gluten on it. Likewise, if I am out and about and come across seemingly gluten-free food that is not labeled as gluten-free, I will not eat it until I contact the manufacturer.
As always, Celiac.com welcomes your comments (see below).